Difference between pillowcases and pillow shams

Pillowcases vs. Pillow Sham

At times people use the terms pillowcases and pillow sham interchangeably. 

Technically (if this is technical?), there is a little difference. In the between them.


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To shop for Italy's finest Pillow Shams - click here


For the most part, pillowcases are intended to sleep on, pillow shams are more decorative. Some can be slept on, others are only decorative accents to the bed. 

Pillowcases are: 

Luxury Pillows cases

  • Open at one end.
  • Usually contain a flange at the opening for some decorative finish. Inexpensive pillowcases may just have a folded sewn hem at the opening.
  • Pillow Shams generally have the following criteria:
  • The opening often has a tuck (flap) found on the back of the sham.
  • Most often, all four edges are finished with flange or cording.
  • Pillow shams typically are a little more decorative.
  • Shams made from sheeting type fabrics can be slept on with no issue. 

Sizes of Pillowcases and Pillow Shams: 

Luxury pillow shams

Both pillowcases and pillow shams are found in common bedding sizes.
Pillowcases are available in the following sizes:

  • Standard (20" x 26")
  • Queen (20" x 30")
  • King (20" x 36")
  • Queen size pillowcases as with queen size shams are somewhat of an aberration. That is, most linen manufacturers do not make a queen-size case or sham.

This is often confusing to people as they assume that their queen-size bed should be outfitted with queen pillowcases.

  • Two standard pillows work perfectly on a queen bed.
  • Because some do not like to sleep with a king-size pillow (they are quite long, and people find them difficult to maneuver while sleeping) three standard, pillowcases will fill the entire width of a king-size bed.
  • At Vero Linens, our standard pillowcases have been uniquely designed, so in the rare cases that someone does have queen size sleeping pillow, they will fit both a standard or queen size. 

Pillow shams are available in a wider array of sizes, which includes the following: 

  • Standard (20" x 26")
  • Queen (20" x 30")
  • King (20" x 36")
  • Euro (26" x 26")
  • Boudoir (12" x 16")

Pillow Tips
To fit a single layer of sleeping pillows across a King-size bed, use (3) standard pillowcases or (2) king pillowcases. When filling out the width across a queen-sized bed, go with (2) standard Pillowcases. 

You may also enjoy the following articles:Luxury bedding

King vs. California King bedding explained...
Sateen Bed Linens vs. Satin bed sheets
Caring for Luxury Linens and Bedding
Buying Bed Sheets, how often should you wash them?

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Pillow Sham & Pillow Cases FAQ 

Can one sleep on pillow shams?

  • Yes, if they are made from washable sheet type fabric.
  • If they have a cording on them, most likely not.
  • Some shams are made from decorative or upholstery grade fabric. Sleeping on shams made from these types of fabrics will most likely not be comfortable. 

What size shams should you use on a queen or king bed?

  • Use 2 standard shams on a queen or full-size bed.
  • Use 2 king shams on a king or Cal-king size bed.
  • With Euro shams, one can use 2 or 3 on a queen- or full-size bed and 3 or 4 on a king-size bed.
  • With regard to boudoir or decorative shams, it is a personal preference.
  • Read our article on what size pillow shams to use on a queen bed here.

What is the best filling material for decorative shams?

  • We think the best filling is feather. As it is inexpensive and never bunches up.
  • Some have allergy issues with feather; as a result, poly-filled pillows will work, but they have a tendency to get lumpy over time and may not fill the corners out well.
  • See our article on how to get the flanges of your pillow shams to stand up here.

Can one use standard sleeping pillows on a king bed?

  • Yes, we have found that many people do not care to sleep with king pillows.
  • 3 pillows will fit perfectly across a king bed.
  • See our article on the common size of sleeping pillows here.
  • Queen-size pillowcases or pillow shams are sold in the market but are not very popular.
  • Some linen manufacturers do not make queen pillowcases or pillow shams.